Repost from…Go…Be…Serve…Guatemala Mission
As God has promised not to leave us comfortless, the true essence of who I be that transcends race, culture, and relationship status was not deprived of the bonds of family defined by our connection to Spirit. This brings to mind my grandmother’s certain but comedic way of discerning folks. If she did not like what she discerned, she would say, “my spirit don’t agree with” him or her. And just like everywhere else I have been, I have found those with whom my spirit “don’t agree” in Guatemala, as well as those with whom my spirit does agree–my extended spiritual family. In this family, there are no hierarchies or boundaries that separate but only the Spirit who unifies. So, although I arrived in Guatemala without a defined support system, I did know the three people that the Spirit used to get me here–the executive director, her husband, and their son–and while I’ve been here, the Spirit has connected me to an extended spiritual family.
Now, for anyone who knows me, there is nothing surprising, shocking, or disconcerting about me taking the leap of faith to come to Guatemala without a support system in place. That is what my spiritual journey has looked like–where God leads, I follow. In fact, my pastor thought that John 3:8 was an appropriate text for my send-off celebration two years ago. It states, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So, wherever the Spirit has blown me, I have had family whose connection is beyond the limits, boundaries, and constraints of society, and Guatemala has been no different.
From the diversity of my supporters, my fifty plus children at the school and my colleagues at the project to neighbors, expats, and random encounters, the Spirit has extended my family connections. Before I even arrived, Spirit had connected me with Aubrey, a kindred spirit, who at the time that she bought my round-trip airline ticket here, had not even met me, but has become my largest donor and a dear friend. Then when I arrived at the school, I was embraced by the children and had instant connections with some of my colleagues at the project. From affectionately adding “ita” or “ito” to our names, to hugs to start the day that connect us heart to heart, to joking and laughing and just enjoying one another’s presence, I feel at home with many of my colleagues. When I first arrived, I became fast friends with my neighbors–Racquel with the tortilla stand in front of my first apartment and Max and Beto at the metal shop next door. Then last July on a trip to Xela, I met a former volunteer at the project, who has been living in Guatemala for more than 15 years. We immediately had this spiritual connection and I jokingly became her “new best friend.” Probably the most interesting spiritual encounter was the one I had with these two older Guatemalan women in a Wal-Mart in Guatemala City within the first six months that I arrived. After we had exchanged greetings in the store and had gone our separate ways to shop, they felt compelled to find me in the store. Clearly, they were women of faith, but their spirits also eerily reminded me of my deceased grandmother Margaret and my feisty aunt Amy who had died right before I came to Guatemala at 100 years young. I shared with them that I was in Guatemala volunteering and they asked how they could pray for me and they did so right there in the middle of Wal-Mart, and I kid you not when I tell you that their names were Margarita and Arely.
So, while I have been alone here on levels that I have not been accustomed to, aloneness does not simply result from lack of a relationship or lack of culture. It also results from lack of connection, because you can be in a relationship or steeped in your culture and still be alone. I will never forget that while I was serving as the campus minister at an HBCU–Historically Black College/University–my board of directors was mostly Black and predominantly United Methodist, and I was alone and unsupported. This reality was given voice to by a professor at the university that I was trying to recruit to the board. She declined serving, but she offered to be a friend, because she told me that she could tell that within the context of my board I was alone.
However, sometimes it is in the pain of whatever aloneness and isolation that we find ourselves that God keeps sending the Comforter by way of extended spiritual family. In so doing, God gives us a deeper appreciation for spiritual connections that unite us across all limitations, boundaries, and constraints.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.